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Even though no one wants to hear this phrase anymore, some of us are actually still saying things like: We have always done it this way; We have tried that already; That won’t work.” How many times a day, month or year do you hear these statements (or some version of them) from your boss, a member of the executive or leadership team or a colleague, and how much does it irritate you? Better yet, what is the cost to the organization when this phrase is carelessly tossed about by people from the executive team on down the line?
Executives, managers and team leaders can – and sometimes do – shut down thinking from their best people – even their top performers. When most people hear any version of this phrase, we think – “Really? You don’t even ask me one question about what I think and you want to shut me down?” What do you think when you hear any such phrase?
Why [ineffective] Leaders Say This
The way I see it, [ineffective] managers and leaders use such phrases because they require no work at all. By giving this statement, supervisors or colleagues don’t have to ask any questions; they don’t have to collect and evaluate any data; they will not have to weigh various alternatives; they won’t be required to justify why the status quo is better; and they won’t even need to discuss what is wrong or right with the new idea. Most of all, they will not have to be uncomfortable.
A better approach
If you want to stick with the “old” way (and granted, sometimes it may indeed be best to do so), first seek to understand the benefits to doing it the same old way or first understand why something didn’t work. You need to do the work to understand the logic, reasoning, rationale and implications behind decisions before accepting or declining any idea or method (whether it be the current method or a new one). Don’t just cling to what is currently being done without an assessment and full understanding of why.
When someone attempts to engage you in a conversation about changing, improving, eliminating or adding a process, service, program, etc., first listen and then ask questions and then listen some more.
Learn and understand why the individuals are making the proposal, what problems they see it solving, what processes it would streamline or improve, what policies it would support, and what benefits it would bring to the team, organization or stakeholders. After you ask your questions, seek to understand and then evaluate what you learn and asses it against keeping the status quo and not changing anything.
For sure, whether you apply the idea or not, thank the individual for showing initiative and leadership with even offering up the new idea or innovative thinking.
If you don’t use the idea,
don’t let it be because “we have always done it this way or because we have tried it already.” If you don’t use the idea, let it be because you have evaluated the pros and cons of the status quo against the pros and cons of the new idea and surely find that the status quo provides the greater benefit. Or if you find there needs to be a better method, but the ones being offered up are not it, then keep asking for more ideas and tell what issues, problems or concerns you have.
You Tell Me –
Have you ever been told this?
How did it make you feel?
What did you think about the person saying it?
CEO, ARVis Institute
International Speaker | Strategist | Management Consultant | Educator | Author
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